In the early '60s, Weight Watchers founder Jean Nidetch began inviting friends into her Queens home every week to discuss how best to lose weight. Fast-forward half a century, and the diet club has blossomed into 50,000 meetings each week in countries all over the world.
As much support group as eating plan, Weight Watchers owes its success not only to its points-based system, but to the motivation and empowerment it provides. The old points system worked on a straight per-calorie basis, with members allowed a certain amount of points for which they could spend eating in whatever way they chose. A revamped points system, Points Plus, now assigns higher point values for calorie-dense foods with more fat and simple carbs, while protein- and fiber-rich foods get fewer. Fresh fruits and non-starchy vegetables are allowed in unlimited quantities. The plan encourages people to eat a wide variety of healthy foods — split between three meals plus snacks, within an individualized calorie level.